The ongoing feud between the West Jefferson Village Council and a local family escalated at Monday night’s regular council meeting, as resident James Aubry threatened legal action on the council.
The Aubrys own seven huskies in their West Jefferson home. Village zoning law currently states that a resident cannot have more than two animals in a residence. The council previously upheld the decision made by the zoning board after the Aubrys appealed.
Council president Ron Garver kicked out an attendee who wore a “Don’t tread on me” cape after the individual spoke loudly in the midst of the meeting. Another onlooker dismissed himself, using profane language on the way out.
Others with camcorders filmed the meeting.
Jeremy Deter, an activist, attended and spoke at the meeting in support of the Aubrys.
“I come here today asking for common sense for these families,” Deter said. “They feel as if their due process has been ignored. They feel they’re being used as a cash cow.”
Deter said families in the area feel their rights are being overlooked, and that the council should appeal to their “human side,” and change the ordinance to allow the dogs. He also said pets are like family members, and should be legally treated as such.
After Deter and council member Doug Eakins got into a heated argument in which voices were raised, Garver slammed his gavel on the table.
“I will not have this turn into a zoo,” he said.
Council member Ray Martin said everyone on the council does have a human side, but the law is their focus, which is why they were elected.
“Though I understand the human factor in this, the feelings of love for your animal, we still have to have the factor of the law,” Martin said. “Up here, that’s our responsibility, to be versed in the law.”
Mayor Darlene Steele said she and the council have to be concerned about all individuals in the village, including those who are bothered by the dogs.
“We have to take the entire village into consideration,” Steele said.
Aubry asked again for the zoning ordinance to change to allow his animals on the property. He cited previous Supreme Court decisions and federal definitions, and asked that village employees no longer “bother” his family.
Aubry then told council that they should avoid any “further embarrassment,” referencing a missing comma that prompted the 12th District Court of Appeals to overturn the parking violation of a woman who lives in the village.
“The village has recently shown that they are unaware of what is in their ordinance book, with the recent loss of a court case due to a comma,” Aubry said.
Aubry said he wanted to address the council before taking the matter to a “Supreme Court” setting.
“You guys are making a bad name for the community of West Jeff,” Aubry said.
Garver said the noise and distraction added by those that interrupted the meeting did not help the Aubrys’ cause. He also said he would not be intimidated by threats of legal action, and that a decision has been made.
Garver said he asked the zoning board to look into the ordinance, and what changes are necessary. He said he has not yet heard back from them at this point.
Council member Cory Coburn suggested later in the meeting that the controversy is now an issue of litigation, and that it should be left up to legal counsel, and not discussed at future meetings.
Also at the council meeting Monday:
• Stephen Holland was approved as a part-time police dispatcher, making $15.22 per hour.
• A resolution was passed authorizing the director of finance to make a final payment of a prior year advance.
• An ordinance was approved authorizing a supplemental appropriation in the Target TIF fund in the amount of $8,422.07 and instructing the finance director to remit said funds to the Target Corporation.
• An ordinance was approved allowing current replacement pages to the West Jefferson Codified Ordinances and declaring an emergency.
Brandon Semler can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1615 or via Twitter @BrandonSemler.
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